Opinion

How Social Media is a Double-Edged Sword When it Comes to Start-Ups and Small Businesses

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How Social Media is a Double-Edged Sword When it Comes to Start-Ups and Small Businesses

Image courtesy of Pexels

These days, we are regularly bombarded with ‘Follow my new page’, ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ messages all over our various social media platforms. With a rise in digital use over the past few decades, came a rise in start-ups, self-made and home-businesses and general entrepreneurship. 

In fact, according to a Global Report on Entrepreneurship in Egypt published by The American University in Cairo (AUC), more than 73 percent of Egyptians find entrepreneurship to be a favorable career choice. Egypt was also ranked the fastest growing start-up ecosystem in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the second largest after UAE, according to a report published by start-up platform MAGNiTT in 2018. 

Living in Egypt today, proof of this rapid rise in entrepreneurial culture is simply evident in the booming air of self-made start-ups and businesses that have become our daily reality every time we pick up our phones or open our computers. 

I have personally come across various new start-ups or small niche businesses that friends or friends of friends have decided to create and venture into, in just the past few couple of months – let alone years… from fashion brands to e-commerce sites.

While in the general sense, the fact that it has now become somewhat easier for the general public to follow their dreams or passions by creating a business out of them is something that is both positive and exciting, this very fact naturally also has some negative aspects to it. 

The Bright Side of Social Media’s Role in Entrepreneurship

Before delving into the negative aspects of how it has now become easier for people to venture into creating their own start-ups or businesses, it is worth making note of some of its positive aspects.

According to an article published on Egypt Today in August 2019 about Egypt’s support of entrepreneurship, founder of Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Jonathan Ortmans said, “With a large youth population, low wage costs and numerous niche markets yet to be saturated, Egypt is an ideal place to offer young entrepreneurs a suitable environment to experiment and develop their ideas.”

While Egypt is in fact an ideal place for young entrepreneurs to experiment and develop their ideas, thanks to the shape of our current economy and the role entrepreneurship plays in it, the role social media and digital platforms play is perhaps larger and even more essential. Take for example local start-ups such as Otlob or Vezeeta, both of which have proven to make efforts in marketing themselves digitally and building a strong social media presence.

Local start-up Otlob is a widely popular online platform used for ordering food.

Growing up in a digital age with constant new technological innovations being introduced into the market on a daily basis, our generation understands the importance of social media and the large role it now plays for businesses – so much so, that even businesses that have grown on classical or outdated models have evolved to adopt modern social-media and digitally-driven models to fit the current state the world is in. 

Today’s youth has a natural knack for social media use and this undoubtedly helps in the fruition of start-ups and self-made businesses. More so now than ever, creating a business can be as easy as having an idea, implementing it and then creating a Facebook and Instagram page for your product or service. 

It is both refreshing and inspiring to watch how some of these small-business and start-up success stories unfold and come to life – each usually offering something that is somehow unique and highlights a sense of the founder’s individuality.

A great example of a small business that has made wonderful use of its social media presence is local fashion brand Fufa. This brand has proven to know its audience and therefore tailors its social media content to fit their interests – this is usually done in visually compelling Instagram posts and stories, and has evolved to include collaborations with other young entrepreneurs as well as informative content about places that inspired their collections and  even interactive competitions for followers of the Instagram page. 

An example of one of Fufa’s visuals posted on Facebook, promoting a clothing collection inspired by the Siwa Oasis. Image courtesy of Fufa official Facebook page

Following this initial thrill and success however, comes the difficulty of maintaining your brand image amongst a vast sea of competition. The true test comes in how young entrepreneurs can manage to keep their small business or start-up afloat and how they can come up with innovative ways to do so. 

The Dark Side of Social Media’s Role in Entrepreneurship

The up side is that anyone can now decide to create their own start-up or business; the down side is that anyone can now decide to create their own start-up or business. 

Funnily enough, this is where social media acts as a double-edged sword when it comes to the role it plays in facilitating the rise in entrepreneurship. According to an article published on smallbizgenius in August 2019, 22.5 percent of small businesses fail within the first year. While this statistic was targeted more specifically towards entrepreneurship in the US, the number could be somewhat similar and applicable in various other parts of the world. 

Due to the fact that more and more people have the tools necessary to bring their ideas for a business to life, just as is the general case with social media, we are bombarded with both good and bad content – both good and bad ideas. 

Just because it is now somewhat easier to leverage off of social media, does not mean that everyone necessarily knows how to use it to their advantage in the best, smartest and most creative ways possible. 

As is the case with any business or start-up, there are many various aspects involved that need to taken into serious consideration, as well as a lot of research and studying. It is not simply enough to ‘know how to use social media’, it has to be knowing how to use social media specifically for your brand in terms of knowing how to market it right, as well as knowing and understanding the market, knowing everything there is to know about your brand and its competitors, and knowing what it takes to build and maintain a business in general taking various external and internal factors into consideration on a regular basis.

The all-too-often hastiness that is associated with ‘building your brand’ and the excitement that comes along with starting your own business often results in small businesses that may have met initial success, but then whose flame dies down ever so gradually. 

Where Things Go From Here

What it all comes down to essentially, is the stamina to constantly study and maintain your small business or start-up amidst the craziness of this digitally-driven world we live in. 

In addition, I believe that although it is beautiful to encounter people following their dreams or passions, and the drive that goes into building a business around it, people should seriously consider the outcome of doing so before getting too hung up on the excitement of its potential. 

*The opinions and ideas expressed in this article do not reflect the views of Egyptian Streets’ editorial team. To submit an opinion article, please email [email protected]

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A believer in all things art. Loves writing, acting, theatre and pretending to know how to cook.

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